Listen Up Philip opens with an uncomfortable shot of its titular character walking down a bustling New York City street while an omniscient narrator explains that he is on his way to meet an ex-girlfriend for lunch. The shakiness of the camera makes it hard to track Philip, played by Jason Schwartzman, but his true character is revealed when he snaps at his ex for arriving late a few moments later.

With his second novel set to cement him as a notable figure in the literary scene, Philip Lewis Friedman is both a full-time writer and self-obsessed asshole. He lives with his girlfriend, Ashley Kane (Elizabeth Moss), a photographer whose success he resents even though she has carried them financially for much of their relationship. Although Philip has stifled Ashley when she has had the chance to shoot big campaigns, he jumps at the chance to take a creative opportunity himself.

After befriending Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), his literary idol, Philip takes up the older writer’s offer to move to his upstate country house indefinitely to focus on his work. With little regard for Ashley’s feelings on being left alone all summer, Philip promptly packs his bags and is gone. Moss plays Ashley very emotionally, throwing Schwartzman’s own iciness into sharper relief. The tension between the two is often hard to bear, but necessary in better understanding the existential crisis they are both going through.

Ike has been equally fond of burning bridges in his own life as his daughter Melanie (Krysten Ritter) explains, so his cheerful accusation of Philip as “selfish and unsentimental” has more of an approving ring to it than anything else. Having thrived under Ike’s counsel, Philip takes his emulation of Ike to hilarious extents, unbuttoning the collar of his Band of Outsiders oxfords just like Ike does with his own shirts.

Both men delight in buying into the cliché of the self-sufficient writer who doesn’t need company, but if that were the case, why would they feel the need to “rub two sticks together and make a fire”? Melanie, a moody character who Ritter seems to have played countless times, sees right through the bullshit and calls out the circle-jerk for what it really is.

Through his connections, Ike gets Philip a job as a creative writing instructor at a small liberal college. While keen to congratulate Philip on his new post and novel, the faculty quickly turn against him at the prompting of Yvette Dussart (Joséphine de La Baume), an academic who doesn’t find Philip deserving of his new job. Having worked for years to get to where she is, Yvette is loath to see a newcomer waltz into the college’s midst and supplant her as the youngest faculty member. Yvette’s hatred is further compounded by the fact that she recognizes Philip’s talent when reading his novels.

Predictably, the two end up in a tryst. Even more predictably, they soon separate when Yvette finds that Philip is even more insidious than she thought.

Throughout all this, we gain a better sense of what it means to have lived with a destructive artist, as Ashley struggles to pick up the pieces of her life in New York. With Ashley’s compassion towards her new cat seeming to be a more positive emotional outpouring than anything Philip has ever shown, we are truly made aware of how ridiculous he is. It is only a pity that Ashley and Melanie don’t meet to discuss how the men in their lives have hurt them.

One gripe I have is that watching this film wouldn’t encourage anyone to think that New York is the multi-cultural metropolis that it is. In a sea of white, buttoned-up actors, the few inclusions of black characters come as a slap in the face with the model, photographer, and unruly student all rising to question Philip’s authority only to be quickly put in what the film would have us believe is their place.

While taking up familiar settings in New York and a typical college campus respectively, Listen Up Philip marks a big step forward in director Alex Ross Perry’s career. Perry’s third feature film serves to debunk rather than perpetuate the myth that an artist can go through life hurting everyone they meet without facing the consequences. The audience is made to see through a fascinating display of dark misanthropic humour that if we separate the artist from their work (ahem, Woody Allen), we risk giving them free reign to ruin the lives of others.

Carlos Andres Gomez travelled nearly 800 km to Hamilton Monday night to speak about a confrontation outside a New York nightclub that changed his life.

“We have to start with our own story,” said Gomez, a spoken word poet known to tackle societal definitions of masculinity.

At TwelvEighty, Gomez addressed students and community members about some of the territory he covers in his latest book, Man Up: Breaking the Code of Manhood.

Gomez spoke about pressure he felt to be a jock in middle school and high school in New York City.  He said his concept of what it means to “be a man” reached a turning point one night outside a club when a man he’d accidentally bumped into wanted to fight him.

“I couldn’t figure out why two men were willing to die over nothing,” he said.

Gomez also described his emotional response—what he’d tried to disguise as an “allergic reaction”—to poetry the first time he heard it. A former social worker and inner city public school teacher, Gomez now performs spoken word poetry around the world.

“At 16 I was building myself up to be this perfect man,” said Gomez during his speech. “I realized, maybe everything I’ve been doing to be a man has been totally incongruous to what I am.”

Gomez describes his work as being about “reimagining what it means to carry a banner of identity.”

“The one-sided version of manhood I was given feeds into violence between men, violence against women and homophobic violence.” he said.

The goal of Gomez’s performances is to prompt people to break away from gender stereotypes.

“There’s a tremendous power and responsibility that comes with being on the stage. I want to make sure I’m talking about things with high stakes.”

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